Novyi Izrail’ or New Israel is a small religious movement of Spiritual Christians that emerged in Russia in the late nineteenth century. Many of their fundamental beliefs were strongly influenced by, and modeled after another Spiritual Christian group, the Doukhobors. Similar to the Doukhobors, many New Israelites fled Russia for Uruguay in the early twentieth century to escape persecution and to establish a community where they could live according to their beliefs. Today, almost a century later, their descendants struggle to maintain their Russian heritage and faith. The following is an earnest appeal for assistance in the maintenance of their museum at their farm settlement of San Javier, Uruguay.
The Museo de los Inmigrantes (Museum of Immigrants) in San Javier, Uruguay is a small one-room town museum devoted to the history and traditions of the New Israel religious movement and the Russian colony of San Javier. This is the only Russian museum in the country and the only institution focused on heritage of the New Israel branch of Russian Spiritual Christianity worldwide. Among items that are currently on display in the museum are old photos, books, personal items, antique domestic appliances (see attached photos).
The New Israelites immigrated to Uruguay, South America in 1913. It was a much smaller group than Doukhobors or Molokans (only about 2000 people total), but they still exist and struggle to preserve their culture and identity. They had to survive extremely difficult times in 1970’s and early 1980’s when Uruguay was governed by a right wing military junta, and all Russians were considered ‘suspicious’ persons by default. Many Russian books were confiscated from homes by the military and burned, and the cultural hall was closed down. Some Russians of San Javier were imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. San Javier is a fairly economically depressed town, even by Uruguayan standards, and the municipality cannot afford to provide much support for the museum. Yet this little island of the Russian culture is managing to survive due to the outstanding enthusiasm of its staff and occasional help from outside.
The museum storage has a lot of valuable items such as old Russian traditional clothes worn by first settlers that cannot be presently properly displayed because the museum does not have mannequins nor means to buy them. The cost of a basic mannequin is around $80, and the museum needs three of those. Another area of concern are old photos that are sometimes too small for visitors with less than perfect sight, and have a tendency to deteriorate with time. The museum staff wants to transfer some of the visual information onto modern vinyl banners for a better view and conservation. The cost of each banner 0.90 x 1.80 mts is about $70, and the museum needs three of those. Therefore, the total cost of the improvement project is approximately only $450.
If any Canadians of Doukhobor descent feel inclined to provide assistance to their spiritual brethren, the Russian descendants of the New Israel religious movement in Uruguay, who are substantially less fortunate financially than most of us in North America, please contact Russian religious historian Sergey Petrov of the University of Calgary, in Calgary, Alberta at: firstname.lastname@example.org
. Any contribution - no matter how modest - will be much appreciated by the Museo de los Inmigrantes and the Russian people of San Javier.
For more information about the New Israel religious movement of Russia and Uruguay, please see Sergey’s scholarly article, “New Israel: Transformation of a Branch of Russian Religious Dissent” at: http://www.doukhobor.org/New-Israel.htm